The Yin and Yang of Seasonal Eating

This is Part 2 of an 8-Part Series in Healthy, Happy Eating for the Whole Family.  Part 1 is SAD DIET: ARE YOU OR YOUR CHILDREN EATING ONE?  Part 3 is HOW TO INCREASE YOUR CHILD'S IQ AND ATTENTION SPAN WITH NUTRITION.   Part 4 is HOW TO GO GLUTEN FREE AND DAIRY FREE AND HAVE YOUR PIZZA AND ICE CREAM TOO!  Part 5 is 4 TIPS ON HOW TO GET A "PICKY EATER" TO EAT  Part 6 is THE CALCIUM MYTH: IT'S NOT WHAT YOU THINK   Part 7 is WHY RAW FOODS FOR CHILDREN IS NOT THE BEST IDEA  Part 8: WHY ORIENTAL MEDICINE ROCKS FOR CHILDREN!

 

Chinese Medicine and Western Medicine differ greatly in reference to the word “energy” and “energetics” in regards to the nutritional qualities of food. While in Western nutrition and dietetics the word “energy” is typically used to refer to the caloric content of a food, in Chinese nutrition energy is used to refer to the yin and yang qualities of a food.   It's important to understand that discrepancy in terminology when reading this blog post, in order to avoid any confusion. In Chinese Medicine, different foods are assigned different energetic values regardless of caloric or macronutrient (fat, protein, carbohydrate) content.  Cooking in Chinese culture has literally thousands of years of history, and it is through this culinary trial and error for over a milennia that the Chinese came up with specific energetic values of foods and their creation of Food as Medicine.

It's important to understand the energetic values of the foods you eat so that you can make better decisions about how to help your body heal and stay well. When you learn to “unlearn” what you may have been taught in school or through fashion and health magazines about a “healthy” diet   -- and listen to your intuition and your body's unique signals – the yin and yang of what you're eating will actually make a lot of sense without having to refer to a reference manual or chart!

Here's a simple exercise to help you start thinking in the right sense about Chinese Medicine energetics:

First, think of the different kinds of whole foods that seem most enticing during the hot summer months. How about watermelon, gazpacho and other cold soups, pineapple, cucumber salad, white fishes, clam chowder, cow's milk dairy products, smoothies made with frozen bananas and strawberries, tofu, lemonade, green tea, coconut water and young coconut? Each of these foods, whether heated or not, are regarded as “cold” foods in Chinese Medicine. They actually help bring your body temperature down, and if you were to eat these types of foods year-round, as many vegans and vegetarians do, you may actually begin to experience symptoms of “yin excess” which could include a slowed metabolism, cold hands and feet, tiredness, and weight gain.  (This is not a complete list and having any one of these symptoms does not necessarily mean you have a yin excess. )

Next, think of the different whole foods you tend to crave during the cold Winter months. How about chicken soup, roasted lamb or beef slow-cooked in the crockpot, wild salmon and other fatty fishes served with cream or butter, hearty stews made with root vegetables, rich and fatty desserts, baked cobblers, scrambled eggs and bacon, and heavier foods in general? These are “warming” foods according to Chinese Medicine, and if you base your diet on these types of foods during the summertime you may become overly yang. Signs and symptoms of excess yang include sweaty or oily skin, foul body odor, red rashes or boils, hyperactivity, insomnia, and hypertension. (This is not a complete list and having any one of these symptoms does not necessarily mean you have a yang excess. )

As a rule of thumb, fruits are usually “cold” foods and animal-derived foods are usually “warm” foods. Some exceptions include durian fruit, lychee berry, and mature coconut, which are warm fruits. If you eat a large quantity of any of these fruits, you may even begin to sweat. Red meats tend to be warmer than white meats, and red or blue-fleshed fishes tend to be warmer than white fishes. There is a tendency for foods with more fat in them (such as durian, mature coconut, lamb, beef, eggs, full-fat dairy) to be warmer than foods with a miniscule fat content (watermelon, apples, chicken breast, coconut water, unseasoned vegetables, tofu). Rice is considered to be a neutral food that imparts neither warming nor cooling effects on the body. It can therefore be consumed at any time of year.

It also just so happens that the foods that are ready for harvest at a particular time of year are the foods that contain the yin and yang qualities that our bodies most need for the climate in which we live. Winter officially begins on the shortest day of the year (the Winter Solstice), which is December 21, and during this time we should not expect to see fresh strawberries, bananas, watermelons, and dandelion greens in the grocery store! (We will inevitably see these cold, summertime foods in grocery stores, but they've been shipped from afar and are probably devoid of important vitamin and mineral content.  Here in Southern California, where I live, you will also see many summer time fruits and vegetables because of our temperate climate, but please remember that we are still entering the winter season and it's best to eat foods that normally grow during the winter season.)   Instead, we should reach for turnips and turnip greens, kale, sweet potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, celery root, clementines, kumquats, grapefruit, mandarins, horseradish, leeks, rutabagas, Jerusalem artichokes, and of course plenty of grass-fed, hormone-free and antibiotic-free meats and fatty fishes. While not all of these foods are warming or yang-promoting per se (such as the vegetables, citrus fruits, and sweet potatoes), they are more neutral than summertime foods and provide a good balance when combined with plenty of meats, eggs, and healthy saturated fats. (And no, that's not a typo. I meant saturated fats, which is a topic for another time!)

 

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and A Happy 2014!

 

 


free-happy-holidays-2012-px-high-def-2012.jpg

 

 

Overview of Pediatric Asian Medicine (PAM)

Hi Moms and Dads, 

Did you know Pediatric Asian Medicine (PAM), is an excellent adjunct for conventional pediatric care?  Asian Medicine is a complete medical system - which also includes pediatrics - in continuous practice for over 2000 years.  Compared to conventional pediatric medicine, which is only about 150 years old in the way it is practiced today, Chinese Medicine was already talking about unique characteristics of children physiology as early as 400 BC.  There were already significant numbers of pediatric texts by the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) in China.

The practice of pediatrics continues very actively today, with hospitals in China that specialize in Chinese medicine pediatric care, hospitals that combine both conventional and traditional medicine, and private Chinese medicine doctors practicing Chinese pediatric medicine.   In Japan (as in my clinic), there are specialized pediatric acupuncturists that practice only shonishin, a non-needling acupuncture system, in clinics and in their private home offices.

There is a growing number of pioneering acupuncturists here in the States that are getting into pediatrics, including myself, because we know it is a much needed area that can address many aspects of pediatric care that cannot be addressed in conventional medicine.  It is our focus to promote the principles of wellness, health and resolution of illness.  Our strength is in viewing the body as a whole, disease prevention, recovery of health after an illness, and addressing conditions that are chronic and/or subclinical.  This means conditions like colds and flu, eczema, asthma, "picky eating," slow development, tantrums and emotional instability, food sensitivities, lack of concentration, and so forth.  Where western medicine would prescribe antibiotics, psychiatric drugs or steroidal creams – or worse yet, say “nothing can be done”, we Physicians of Asian Medicine prescribe Food as Medicine and dietary modifications, exercises, herbal prescriptions, heat therapy, pediatric massage and acupressure/acupuncture for illness resolution and disease prevention. 

Want to try PAM for your child?  Contact me!  Let's see how I can help you. 

 

For those who are ready to bring your child in for a holistic pediatric wellness visit at Iyashi Wellness, I have some Pediatric Frequently Asked Questions that will help to facilitate a smooth and stress-free first visit for you and your child.  

 

More on Pediatric Wellness Care: 

My 8-Part series on Healthy, Happy Eating that the Whole Family Can Enjoy starts here:

 

 

 

 

 

Foods You Should Be Eating

There was recently a wonderful article in Well, a New York Times Healthblog. It talks about 11 foods people should be eating but most likely aren't. Luckily, all of the listed foods are easy to find at your local markets, and especially farmers markets.

Since the article already lists what the foods are good for and how to prepare it, I decided to do a twist on those foods from a Chinese Medicine perspective. So here it goes:

Beets: these pee-staining (and you know what I mean if you've eaten them!!) roots nourish the blood, strengthen the heart, calm the mind, lubricate the intestines and cleanse the liver. What does that mean? It's excellent for anemia, restlessness, constipation and for liver intoxification from drugs or alcohol. I like to eat it by boiling the beets in water until tender, peel skin and then eat as is with no seasoning. It comes out so sweet, you don't need any seasoning! I also like to cook the beet greens in a sauté, whether stir fried, or water fried with other hardy greens. Caution when consuming it raw. I one time drank a cup of raw beet juice with nothing else, and I immediately threw it up! Its detoxing abilities are so strong, you have to consume it mixed with other fruits and veggies juices.

Cabbage: it's excellent in clearing heat, lubricating the intestines and stopping cough. When we say clearing heat in Chinese Medicine, it means heat symptoms present in the body, from constipation (you're all dried up, right?), thirst, fever, acne (it's usually red like fire, right?), body odor (fetid food has smell, right? so if you're consuming heat-producing foods, you're more likely to have B.O. than not), hypertension, hot flashes, to anger (that's a form of emotion rising up onto the surface, exploding, like a volcano, right?), and so forth. I like to eat it by julienning it and then sprinkling a little bit of vinegar and salt to it. I then mix it really well until it become a little like pickles. In Japan, there was a craze for a while of the Cabbage Diet. All people ate was cabbage to help them lose weight because of it's high fiber content and aid in promoting bowel movements.

Swiss Chard: Like all dark green leafy vegetables, it has a cooling ability, so like the cabbage, and similar to spinach, it can clear heat. It also nourishes the blood. So it's excellent for anemia, blood disorders, constipation and detoxing. I like to water-fry it with a little bit of garlic and salt, or mix it into some quinoa with kale and salt. Simple but delicious!

Cinnamon: Cinnamon, or rou gui, is used extensively as a medicinal herb in Chinese herbology. It is a warming herb, so we use it for conditions like the common cold, abdominal pain that gets better if you put warmth to it, PMS cramping and low back pain. Think about it, when do you usually use cinnamon in your cooking? During the Fall and Winter right, for that yummy pumpkin pie, in soups, in hot cocoa or hot coffee. Why? Because it's warming, and for Americans, it reminds them of feeling all cozy on a cold winter day. I like to throw a whole cinnamon twig into the boiling water that I use to prepare steel cut oatmeal. Not only does it make it fragrant, but it sure adds that punch of core-warming heat to my oatmeal. For PMS cramping or stomach pain, drink cinnamon tea.

Pomegranate Juice: pomegranates promote urination, reduce inflammation (especially of the throat, mouth and urinary tract), and is mildly nourishing to the blood. It's good for urinary tract infections, like cranberry juice, because its sour and cooling, and like aforementioned, promotes urination and reduces inflammation in the urinary tract. I like to drink pomegranate juice, but like with any fruit juices, because of its high sugar content, I usually dilute it with water. It's best, like with any juices, to eat the real fruit, so if you can find it in your market, buy the real fruit. It's time consuming to get to the seeds, but well worth the effort. Just be careful staining your clothes.

Dried Plums: ok, I don't eat dried fruits, again, because like fruit juices, they are high in sugar content. So if I'm going to eat dried plums, I'm going to choose the real fruit. They are the yummiest during the summer. It's excellent at supporting the healthy functioning of the liver, and helps to keep the qi ("energy source" in Chinese medicine) flowing smoothly throughout your body. Some expressions of stuck qi is irritability, moodiness, PMS, easy to anger, and menstrual problems. Plums are also a digestive aid and relieves thirst.

Pumpkin seeds: it's an anti-parasitic and diuretic, so it's excellent for intestinal worms, diabetes and prostate problems. The raw seeds are excellent at calming nausea and bloatingduring pregnancy.

Sardines: like with fruit juices and dried fruit, I like my fish fresh. In Japan, we eat sardines all the time, broiled. Because it can be quite bitter, we like to eat it with some grated daikon and soy sauce to cut the bitterness. Sardines are wonderful qi tonics and yin tonics. What is yin?, you might ask. It encompasses the notion of body fluids, cooling energy, female energy, night, sleep, calmness and so forth (as opposed to yang energy, which is aggressive, explosive, muscles, male energy, and day). It also nourishes the tendons and bones. So sardines are great for menopause, thirst, bone fractures, osteoporosis, tendonitis.

Tumeric: like cinnamon, this is an herb we use extensively in Chinese herbology. Known as jiang huang, we primarily use it for menstrual disorders like amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, cramps, and for arthritic conditions.

Frozen Blueberries: ok, frozen fruits and vegetables are my exceptions. I do keep frozen blueberries in my freezer to use in my smoothies or oatmeal -- if I can't get access to fresh ones, or if it's not summer. Blueberries nourish the blood and tonify the qi, so it's good for anemic conditions, amenorrhea, and fatigue. Like with cranberries, it also aids in relieving urinary tract infections. I love to eat fresh, sweet blueberries also with some home-made whipped cream! Mmmm!

If you want to learn more about food from a Chinese Medicine perspective, a wonderful book to own is called The Tao of Nutrition by Maoshing Ni and Cathy McNease. Much of the information in this particular post came from this book.

And one last thing I'd like to say about eating these and other foods is to choose organic, locally grown foods as much as possible.

Enjoy healthy eating!!